UF Marketing Professor Predicts Summer Movie Hits And Misses
GAINESVILLE — Dinosaurs will devour the box office again this summer as the “Jurassic Park” sequel “The Lost World” outperforms all other releases, a University of Florida professor predicts in a new study.
Through simulated viewing group responses, UF marketing Professor Steven Shugan can predict an upcoming movie season’s hits and flops, based on the film makers’ past performances and responses to factors such as trailers, or film clips, that promote the films.
“The big hit will be “Lost World,” which is not a big surprise, and it will be way ahead,” Shugan said. “The new Batman movie, Batman and Robin,’ may be somewhat of a disappointment. Our studies show that it won’t do as well as the last Batman.’ In fact, our study showed that people were slightly less likely to see the movie after watching the trailer. The distributor might change this through massive advertising.”
Shugan’s predictions are based on a study launched about a year ago in which UF students met before each movie season and watched trailers for upcoming movies. They then answered questions on how likely they were to see the movie based on the trailer. The most recent group consisted of 60 respondents watching 16 trailers. So far, 419 people have evaluated 64 trailers.
The survey can be used as a model for other businesses to predict the success of new products and could be used by movie studios to determine which movies to produce.
“This study will add to the literature on new product development,” Shugan said. “We hope industry will use this to predict the success or failure of new products.”
The age range of the students, 18 to 25, is the favored demographic for most movies, which might have an effect on some of the predictions.
“These are college students, which is the main target market for movies. This could explain why Mortal Combat 2′ tested so badly. What could save it are the 7- and 8-year-olds,” he said. “One of the worst movies will be McHale’s Navy,’ a Universal release, which might be aimed at an age group that remembers the TV series. This looks like a disaster.”
The study found that predictions based only on a large group’s average intent to see a movie do not always predict how successful a certain movie can be.
“When we just look at the average intent, we found that the average is not correlated with the box office,” Shugan said. “For example, Beavis and Butthead Do America,’ which did fairly well at $63 million, had terrible average intent. But a small group of people really wanted to see it. The key is to market to some percentage of people. Although the average number of people who say they are going to see a movie is important, it is not as important as having a number of people very interested. That is how we do our forecast.”
The study also identified what influenced people to see movies. One of the most important factors was the people involved, especially the screenwriter, who was identified as more important than the director or even the cast, Shugan said.
“We found that the screenwriter was the most important person in the movie,” he said. “From 1980 to 1996, we found how well the screenwriter’s best film did, and this tells the potential for their current movie. This is a really good predictor of a movie’s success.”
Other summer movies predicted to be hits include Tri-Star’s “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” a romantic comedy starring Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney, and “Con Air,” an action movie about the hijacking of a prisoner transport plane, starring Nicholas Cage and distributed by Buena Vista. Other than “The Lost World,” big-budget science-fiction movies are not predicted to do as well this summer.
“The science-fiction movie The Fifth Element,’ starring Bruce Willis, didn’t test well at all, and after watching the trailer even fewer people wanted to see it,” Shugan said.
This is the third phase of the study. Results from the first groups of movie watchers accurately predicted the hits for previous seasons.
“We predicted Liar, Liar would take in over $100 million, so far it is at about $150 million,” Shugan said. “Out of all the movies in that period, which was about 30 or 40, we knew that this would be the biggest. Liar, Liar’ had the most positive responses, people reacted positively to the story line even before watching the trailer.”
- Scott Adams